Running a business is a risky proposition and not immune to Murphy’s Law—if something can wrong, it will go wrong—and something is sure to go off the rails sometime.
The first step in keeping your business running when risk turns into reality is assessing the vulnerabilities and ranking them by probability and impact.
Typically, vulnerabilities run from high-probability, low-impact event (a temporary power outage, for instance) to low-probability, high-impact events—often called Black Swans—such as the catastrophe the COVID-19 mandates inflicted on the economy.
A quadrant with the high- and low-probability on one axis and high- and low-impact on the other is a good way to rough out the beginning of a risk assessment.
Adding details to events in each quadrant prepares you for developing your Business Continuity Plan (BCP). That is the document that you lay out the action steps to get through an emergency and recover from it.
So, now that you’ve ranked potential threats to your business—including the potential for a Black Swan; the details aren’t important, but you should allow for the possibility that one can happen and it will be a whopper—it’s time to work on your BCP.
Identify the Goals of the Plan
BCP goals are your action plan for that event that threatens your business, something as simple as a temporary power outage to an all-out catastrophe, even a Black Swan. You don’t have to know the details, only there is something that could never happen … until it does.
- What are you going to do to keep your team safe?
- Have you backed up business-critical data offsite?
- Is there a rainy-day financial fund to stay afloat during a prolonged recovery period?
Those are just a few of the questions you and your team should consider while developing your BCP.
Identify Your Business Continuity Team
Assign members of your staff and assign responsibilities that include keeping the plan up to date and implementing it in the event of an interruption.
To assemble your BCP team, consider:
An emergency can happen any time; are team members available at a moment’s notice?
Is each person’s assignment relevant to their knowledge and experience and do they have the skills to put their responsibilities into action?
Don’t assign a staffer to a critical action if that person does not want responsibility for it.
Does this team believe in the importance of the business continuity plan, and are they committed to making it work?
Once you’ve identified a group of individuals who meet these criteria, it’s time to start putting together your business continuity plan.
Piece Together Everything
After you’ve gathered all of the necessary information and created a solid foundation for your plan, it’s time to create your BCP that will get your company through a disruption.
Draft a comprehensive plan covering all aspects of coping with an event, including evacuation plans, control and communication, data recovery procedures … anything that is essential to keeping your business in business during an emergency.
Review your BCP regularly to keep it up to date and relevant. The following are some tips for doing just that:
Set aside time on a regular basis—at least once a quarter—to test your plan. This will ensure that it’s always ready to be put into action if needed.
The best way to test your plan is to make it as realistic as possible. That means simulating a real-life disaster situation and seeing how your employees would respond.
After each test, get feedback from everyone involved. This will help you identify any areas that need improvement.
Revise your plan regularly, based on the feedback you receive and any changes in your business (e.g., new locations, new technology, etc.).
All businesses, large or small, should have a continuity plan in place to ensure they can weather any storm. By following the tips laid out in this article, you can create a comprehensive continuity plan for your business that will help you keep things running smoothly even when chaos strikes.